AFL Finals Week 2 – Sydney v Carlton: If the road is easy, you’re going the wrong way

Saturday night and as the temperature dips I’m swept up in a sea of people pouring into Olympic Park. The hopeful, the confident, the desperate and the drunk, all wanting a win. This is most definitely The Last Chance. In just over two hours some of us will be singing, the rest shambling out looking like we’ve been handed a box set of the ‘The Bachelor.’ Last week’s brutal hammering by the Hawks has left me drained. I can’t cope with another weak effort, another loss. Finishing my food I follow the crowd in.

ANZ Stadium. ‘This is Awfulness’ ought to be its slogan; a hideous place with an infinite capacity to disappoint. Just when you think its hit rock-bottom it manages to slide further down the Mariana Trench. Tonight’s issue is the pitch. Players slipping and missing kicks on a surface that’s shiftier than an election promise. I’m seething whenever anyone topples over for no reason other than piss poor ground management. Fingers are being pointed at last night’s League game but I’m told the NRL are looking for answers too. Officials are down there at quarter time giving the turf the green thumbs up but at this point what choice does anyone have?

The Enemy are here in force tonight, luck and momentum bringing them north. Relative ladder position makes them clear outsiders. But when do the Footy Gods ever want the Swans to have a clear ride? Five minutes into the first quarter and Tippett lunges to the ground taking a great mark. Everyone’s favourite Balfour Pie spruiker shanks the kick and then starts grabbing at his right knee. As he hobbles off I get a sinking feeling he won’t be back. He isn’t. Neither is Mitchell, snapping his ankle contesting the ball in attack. How much bad luck can one team have? Down a rotation, with a doubtful match fit Jetta subbed on, there’s blood in the water. However the Swans keep The Enemy at bay with a short lead after Bolton’s fluky grasscutter on the siren.

It must be hell playing the Swans. One player goes down another one steps up. It reminds me of Michael Caine’s immortal line ‘Zulu’s, bloody thousands of them!’ Kennedy benefits from a murky score review. O’Keefe and McVeigh score majors. Jetta confidently marks White’s high kick on the line and bangs it through. Cunningham scores a beauty of a debut goal. The Enemy look fast on the break but our defence floods back to hold them up. I’m concerned about our lack of contested marking. Bring it to ground seems to be the tactic and it’s having varying results. Still grinding out the stoppages puts us twenty two points up at half time.

We’re kicking The Enemy’s backside in the third. Five goals break the game wide open. McVeigh’s having a blinder. If Freo are ‘anywhere, anytime’ then our captain is ‘everywhere, every time.’ His bald dome is sighted from half back to full forward. We get lucky as a messy shot from Jetta turns into a gift goal for Jack. The Enemy has no response. Their supporters lose their voice.

The final quarter is all about holding the fort, throwing battered and bruised bodies back to stymie The Enemy’s spirited attack. We barely get the ball past the centre square. But four goals from ten shots says it all, The Enemy’s finals campaign is effectively skewered. Jude Bolton’s final Sydney game ends in complete triumph.

Postgame I meet up with Enemy supporters Tony Reed, his sister (both fellow Almanacers) and their friend Charles. Tony and Charles drove up from Melbourne and are now glad they didn’t waste the airfare. A quick beer is had watching other Enemy supporters gamble on the dishlickers, presumably to cover their trip back to Lygon Street.

And so from victory it’s onwards. The effort cannot be questioned but our depth is now a big issue. Horse may have to come out of retirement to pull on the red and white as we’re seriously running out of options here. Yet with the amazing efforts to get this far and with the Swans again showing great adaptability I know they’re well in with a chance.

About Tom Bally

Born in 1834 Tom Bally was instrumental in establishing the rules of the modern game. It's a little known fact and the rare times he talks about it all he'll say is "that bloody Wills chap got me full of grape one night and the next thing I know he's peacocking around Richmond Paddock like he dreamt up the whole thing on his lonesome. Still I got the last laugh didn't I eh? Introducing the Umpire and all that."

Comments

  1. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Top read Tom written with Passion and some Entertainment Match Reports in General re The Almanac are so much better than the boring crap in the Paper
    Well Done although I fear your right re Numbers running short but 1 thing we no Sydney will have a crack and as a Crows supporter was that the Footy Karms bus re Tippett ?
    Well Done Tom

  2. Peter Fuller says:

    Tom,
    Well-written, right up to your usual standards. My Blues were abject on Saturday, they seemed emotionally spent after two draining come-from-behind wins, and the Bloods were correspondingly brave and committed (when were they not, even against Hawthorn the previous week, it was just a gulf of talent and organisation which overwhelmed their best efforts).
    As I had been to Adelaide, my budget wouldn’t extend to a trip to Sydney, so I was saved from that disappointment that other Almanacker Blues endured. However watching your team cave in on television is a particular form of Hell, and my offer of advice to players and match committee went unheeded.
    Well-done your Bloods; this week is an enormous test, but who is to say that they won’t measure up. You can be pretty sure they won’t die wondering.

  3. Hey Tom, you’ve forgotten my name already? I’m Tony’s sister & I too was in that car travelling to Sydney. I was smart, I flew home, happy to return to sunshine in a town where the grounds suit footy (well, maybe not Docklands). Good luck for Friday night, at least they should keep their feet.
    Barb Smith

  4. Barb my apologies, a near unforgivable oversight! I’m going home to have words with my proof reader, she should have picked up on this. This is also the sort of error that occurs when you try to stick to a word limit.

    Flying back was the smart thing to do. Three people with nothing but eight hours of brooding over the loss….probably not the way to go.

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